Monday, May 30, 2016

30 Days of Books Day 7

I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.

Today's prompt: Most underrated book

I'm choosing this out-of-print picture book. IT NEEDS TO BE A BOARD BOOK. IT NEEDS TO BE REPUBLISHED. IT NEEDS MORE READERS.

Grump. Janet Wong. Illustrated by John Wallace. 2001. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Book I Bought]

Look how tired this Mommy is
Tired and frumpy
Grouchy chumpy
Oh, what a grump!

Look at Baby
Smart, good Baby
Happy Baby
Making gravy
Applesauce and ketchup gravy
Not too lumpy
Not too bumpy
Squish squish

Grump is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite books. I almost don't even need to make the qualification of favorite picture book. It's a book that begs to be read aloud again and again and again. The rhythm of it is almost magical--at least to me! I love the use of language, I do. I love the way it sounds, the way it feels on my tongue. It's real life. It's poetry. It just works.

The story of this one is simple. It's been a LONG, LONG, LONG day for this Mom and her Baby. And even if the Baby doesn't think he needs a nap, he needs a nap. But will this baby go down for a nap? Not without an all-too-familiar-struggle!

Baby's going to take a nap now
Baby's going to take a nap now
Baby's going to take a nap now
Take a nap now
Little lump.

She puts him in his crib and...

And oh of course that baby cries
Cries and whimpers
Cries and whimpers
Cries and whimpers
Play with me!
So Mommy sits 
And reads to Baby
Reads so pretty
Reads so softly
Reads and reads and reads until--

Can you guess what happened to the oh-so-tired, oh-so-grumpy Mommy?

This one is such a GREAT book. I loved how true-to-life it was. Not only for the baby, not only for the mommy--but it captures the ups and downs of the whole relationship.

This one has been a favorite going on ten years. Today I was looking to review some board books, hoping to find something great to share with you, when I thought again of Grump. Why isn't Grump still in print? Why hasn't it been reprinted? Why??? It's just a WONDERFUL book. And it would be a great board book!!! The combination of this story with that format would be just perfect!!!!

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Summer Intentions: Time Travel

I don't know about you, but my travel plans for this summer are TIME TRAVEL plans. I plan to hop around in the twentieth century, the nineteenth century, and the FUTURE.

Because Victorian books tend to be on the long side, I was thinking that I could spend all summer reading and reviewing these. No need to rush or be in a hurry after all.

For the twentieth century, I am thinking of devoting the month of June. Some of these time-travel inspired posts will be ordinary book reviews. But I thought of also pulling in some movie reviews, music reviews, top ten lists, etc.

For the FUTURE, I thought I would devote the month of July to reading speculative fiction, specifically science fiction, dystopias, apocalyptic, post-apocalpytic.

As for August, I do have some ideas. I want to REALLY celebrate my tenth blogiversary because I feel TEN is a huge number! I'm not sure if that means a lot of rereading in my future, or, if it means a lot of list-making! My one goal is to SCHEDULE AHEAD posts for every day of the Summer Olympics so that I don't spend those weeks on the computer blogging!

Since I also NEED to focus more on books published in 2016, maybe most of the pre-scheduled August posts can be for 2016 books?!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Completed Challenge: Back to The Classics

Back to the Classics 2016 Reading Challenge
Books and Chocolate (sign up)
January - December 2016
# of Books at least six

What I Read for the Challenge:

1. A Volume of Classic Short Stories: Silent Nights. Edited by Martin Edwards. 2015. Poisoned Pen Press. 298 pages. [Source: Review copy]
2. A classic by a woman author: North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1854-1855. 452 pages. [Source: Bought]
3. A fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian classic. Alas, Babylon. Pat Frank. 1959/2005. Harper Perennial Modern Classics. 323 pages. [Source: Bought]
4. A 19th Century Classic. Joan of Arc. Mark Twain. 1895/1896. 452 pages. [Source: Library] HISTORICAL (Adult)
5. A classic which has been banned or censored.  Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953/1991. Del Rey. 179 pages. [Source: Bought] *This one wasn't "banned" but censored in some editions--with certain words taken out.
6. A classic which includes the name of a place in the title. The Pastures of Heaven. John Steinbeck. 1932. 207 pages. [Source: Library] [short stories]
7. A classic in translation.   Doctor Zhivago. Boris Pasternak. Translated by John Bayley. 1957. 592 pages. [Source: Library]
8. An adventure classic. The Children's Homer. Padraic Colum. 1918/1982. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]
9. A 20th Century Classic: The Fellowship of the Ring. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1954/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 423 pages. [Source: Bought]
10. Classic detective novel: Murder in the Museum. John Rowland. 1938. Poisoned Pen Press. 250 pages. [Source: Review copy]
11. Classic by a non-white author. The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Paul Laurence Dunbar. 290 pages. [Source: Library]
12. Re-read a classic you read in school (high school or college). The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain. 1884. 327 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain. 1884. 327 pages. [Source: Library]

I have been meaning to reread Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn since last August when I saw a production of BIG RIVER. At the time I saw Big River, it had been almost eight years since I'd last read the book. I was not sure what was "in the book" or "true to the book" and what was not. I loved, loved, LOVED, LOVED the local production of Big River. And if they had sold albums with that cast singing the songs, I'd have BOUGHT it and played it again and again and again and again. (Particularly Martin Clark as Jim. He was AMAZING).

So am I glad I reread it. Yes!!! Very much. I think this novel is lost--almost wasted--on younger audiences when it's "required" reading for schools. Both times that I've read it as an adult have been positive.

I love the character of Huckleberry Finn. I love the character of Jim. I think I paid even more attention to Jim's character this time around. Those two alone make this novel worth reading carefully. This one isn't one I'd want to listen too, however, or read aloud. The language in this one can be very harsh on the ears I'd imagine. Certain words are just ugly no matter what. That being said, the presence of a certain word is not reason enough to ban it or censor it!

The book is an coming-of-age adventure story with heart and humor. Neither Jim or Huck are book-smart or intellectual, but both are endearing and genuine. Two characters I hated were King and Duke. Tom Sawyer also got on my nerves a LOT in this one.

First sentence: You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.

An example of Huck's narrative voice:
Every night, now, I used to slip ashore, towards ten o'clock, at some little village, and buy ten or fifteen cents' worth of meal or bacon or other stuff to eat; and sometimes I lifted a chicken that warn't roosting comfortable, and took him along. Pap always said, take a chicken when you get a chance, because if you don't want him yourself you can easy find somebody that does, and a good deed ain't ever forgot. I never see pap when he didn't want the chicken himself, but that is what he used to say, anyway.
Well, then, says I, what's the use you learning to do right, when it's troublesome to do right and ain't no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same? I was stuck. I couldn't answer that. So I reckoned I wouldn't bother no more about it, but after this always do whichever come handiest at the time.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Sunday, May 29, 2016

My Thoughts on Two Dickens Adaptations

Bleak House (2005)

I was happy for an excuse to rewatch Bleak House. This adaptation saved me from abandoning the novel when I initially tried to read it six years ago.

What you should know:

It is fifteen episodes long. The first episode is about an hour long. The remaining fourteen episodes are thirty minutes each. Oddly enough, the fact that when you're binge-watching (and who doesn't binge-watch Dickens???) your progress is interrupted by opening and closing credits so often makes the drama feel much, much longer than it actually is.

It has a few familiar faces. (Anna Maxwell Martin, Carey Mulligan, Burn Gorman, Gillian Anderson, Pauline Collins, Philip Davis, Charles Dance, Timothy West, Alun Armstrong, Louise Brealey, Denis Lawson, and Richard Harrington.) I had just finished watching Lark Rise to Candleford, so I NOTICED right away that "Gabriel" was in this one as Esther's love interest.

There's some humor, some mystery, a LOT of drama, and a bit of romance.

The romance I found almost-but-not-quite satisfying the first time I watched it. I really loved John Jarndyce--perhaps carrying over from the book where he plays an even bigger role in some ways. In the book, the doctor isn't even NAMED for his first few appearances. He's just "a doctor" or "the doctor." The romance between Esther and Dr. Woodcourt--in the book--was practically nonexistent. In the movie, especially the second time around, the romance is there even if a tiny bit subtle. It helped me that Richard Harrington has become more familiar face to me. (Bleak House, Lark Rise to Candleford, Poldark). There is something about him--perhaps his eyes--that are just mesmerizing. I wouldn't mind him cast as Mr. Rochester if another Jane Eyre is made.

Nicholas Nickleby (2002)

This is a 'relatively' short adaptation of a Dickens' novel. Considering how long the novel is to begin with, the fact that one can watch it in just a little over two hours seems a bit questionable. Yet I found it enjoyable. I had no other adaptation to consider it by, that's true. But I think it's one of those adaptations where you don't really need prior familiarity with the book to make sense of it.

It stars Christopher Plummer as Ralph Nickleby. (Christopher Plummer was probably my first BIG, BIG crush. There were plenty of reasons I watched Sound of Music every single day for months.) Charlie Hunnam is Nicholas Nickleby and Romola Garai is Kate Nickleby. (She also stars in Emma and Amazing Grace). 

It also stars: Anne Hathaway, Jim Broadbent, Jamie Bell, Tom Courtenay, Nathan Lane, Dame Edna, Philip Davis, to name just a few.

Did I love, love, love this one? Probably not. I don't know that we really get to know any of the characters fully. But it's an enjoyable movie to watch at least once.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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